One Question Quiz

SocietySeptember 5, 2023

The cost of being: A super frugal public servant living in Canterbury


As part of our series exploring how New Zealanders live and our relationship with money, a Cantabrian tells us how she achieved $200,000 in savings and a paid-off  mortgage before turning 40.

Want to contribute? Email  to receive the form.

Gender: Female 

Age: 30s

Ethnicity: Pākehā

Role: Public service supervisor.

My living location is: Canterbury. 

Rent/Mortgage per week: $0. I paid off the mortgage on my house last year, and my partner pays me $120 a week in “rent” to help cover the usual insurance, rates etc.

Student loan or other debt payments per week: $0 – I worked to save for my study fees before studying, applied for scholarships, and got a student allowance.

Typical weekly food costs

Groceries: $350/week for the two of us. This includes $25-$50 at the farmers market for meat, eggs and produce.

Eating out/takeaways/workday lunches/cafe coffees/snacks: $25/week for takeaways/eating out. I take a packed lunch for work and don’t drink takeaway coffee.

Other food costs: $15 a month for seed raising mix/compost plus plants and seeds. This produces most of our veges in summer.

Savings: I only have 20k in my Kiwisaver as I used 20k from it for a deposit on my first home. But I have $200,000 in term deposits from saving over half my salary every month since I started working full time at age 18.

I worry about money: Sometimes.

Three words to describe my financial situation would be: Frugal. Fortunate. Reliable.

My biggest edible indulgence would be: Cheese.

In a typical week my alcohol expenditure would be: $0. I basically don’t drink, maybe one or two ciders or wine with friends every six months or so.

In a typical week my transport expenditure would be: $50 on petrol.

I estimate in the past year the ballpark amount I spent on my personal clothing (including sleepwear and underwear) was: $100 or less. I opshop when I need something but often I’m given secondhand clothes so rarely need to shop.

My most expensive clothing in the past year was: Thermals from Macpac on special at $20 each.

My last pair of shoes cost: $0 – found brand new on the side of the road (my neighbour was giving them away). Nice trail shoes.

My grooming/beauty expenditure includes: $40/year shampoo bars. I cut my own hair and don’t wear makeup.

My exercise expenditure in a year is about: I paid an osteopath $330 to help fix a few injuries. Everything else is free: I walk and YouTube yoga classes.

My last Friday night cost: $0. On Saturday I had a lunch out ($25) in Christchurch and made the most of free activities around the city with a friend.

Most regrettable purchase in the last 12 months was: $42 for Calmer ear plugs – I fell for a Facebook Ad and have only worn them once.

Most indulgent purchase (that I don’t regret) in the last 12 months was: $1000 worth of decking timber.

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad is: Activities and treats for myself, but to be honest most of my financial decisions are frugal.

Five words to describe my financial personality would be: Find free stuff, save money.

I grew up in a house where money was: Limited. Both my parents couldn’t find work for large parts of my childhood.When they were able to work, they spent and invested money wisely, buying a house and slowly doing it up. I loved having present parents and making do with what we had.

The last time my eftpos card was declined was: When my automatic payment for house insurance went out unexpectedly, resulted in an empty bank account and a penalty fee until I could move funds around.

In five years, in financial terms, I see myself: More stable, still saving half my salary and investing wisely while continuing with my frugal ways. It’s likely that I’ll have saved another $200,000 or purchased a different property.

I would love to have more money for: I’d love to have enough so I could retire early, be comfortable and volunteer for projects I’m passionate about.

Want to contribute? Send us an email briefly describing your situation at

Read the previous Cost of Beings here.

Keep going!